Nuggets finish December 5-0 at home
The Denver Nuggets (22-11) fended off the San Antonio Spurs (19-17) 102-99 to split the home-and-home with the Spurs. Jamal Murray stepped up in this one and led the Nuggets with 31 points while Jokic had a near triple-double with 21-9-9. LaMarcus Aldridge was tough to handle in the second half as he led all Spurs with 24 points on the night.
Jokic pushed the pace right from the jump and the Nuggets didn’t let their foot off the gas. Juancho Hernangomez put in the game’s first bucket, forcing Pop to call a timeout less than one minute in.
Even after the Spurs collected themselves, the Nuggets had a special playoff-like energy, sparked by Jokic and Murray answering the call.
Plumlee took advantage of mismatches inside which allowed Jokic to enter the ball into the post and let Plumlee kick it out to work the inside-out game and catch the Spurs off balance defensively.
The Spurs bench unit injected some energy with a Davis Bertans 3-pointer as the Nuggets shooting fell off momentarily (1/7 after starting 6/11). Jamal Murray, looking to break out of his slump, had the blue arrow activated tonight, though, coming out of the timeout with a deep three.
Brandon Goodwin found himself in the early rotation and his unit with Monte Morris and Malik Beasley pushed the pace to another level, including a skying alley-oop where Beasley nearly hit his head on the backboard on the way down.
Beasley kept his energy high on both ends as he continues his impressive two-game series with the Spurs. In Beasley’s second quarter run it seemed like he couldn’t miss attacking the basket or spotting up from three.
Despite some questionable calls against the Nuggets solid defense they still continued to pour it on in the first half. The most questionable call was on an impressive recovery from Mason Plumlee to block LaMarcus Aldridge from finishing an alley-oop attempt that ended up being called for goaltending. Still, Jamal finished with the three at the other end, adding a half shimmy to celebrate the play.
Murray had it cooking so much that he even tried to dunk it on two Spurs down the stretch to end the half. That aggression allowed him to get Aldridge in the air on the final shot attempt of the half to give the Nuggets a 61-47 lead.
The Spurs made some adjustment at halftime and looked to attack the Nuggets with Aldridge in the post facilitating early. The Nuggets on the other hand were as flat as could be on both ends. The run extended all the way to 11-2 for the Spurs with lazy mental mistakes taking over.
That was until Murray took the unexpected pass from Jokic to finish a mini 4-0 run of Denver’s own, seemingly recapturing the energy once Beasley checked back in.
The guard duo of Bryn Forbes and Derrick White couldn’t be stopped. Meanwhile, the Nuggets just couldn’t get their non-Jokic alley-oops to fall on their end. Even Monte Morris had an uncharacteristic turnover as the Nuggets had completely unraveled by the end of the third, with eight turnovers in the quarter.
Malik Beasley continued to be the difference, attacking the rim hard on a dunk attempt to send him to the line and then connecting on a three to get the Nuggets off to a good start in the fourth. Still, the Nuggets couldn’t get their shots to fall.
In an unfortunate turn of events, Malik Beasley twisted his ankle. Although he was able to shoot the free throws, he had to come out, forcing Jokic and Murray to step up to close out the game. Murray did just that.
Not without another scare as Jamal rolled his ankle, nearly sending a dagger to the Nuggets chances. Murray toughed it out and went on to have a gutsy closeout game that stars have.
Jokic threw a ball away on one end leading to a close replay review. On the ensuing possession DeMar DeRozan missed one of two free throws, but the ball was tracked down by Poeltl before Jokic picked up his fifth foul contesting the rebound.
Jokic responded to the rough plays on both ends by coming down and drilling a shot deep in the post and winning a key jump ball against LaMarcus Aldridge.
Jokic and Craig then fouled out on back to back possessions off of Murray turnovers as the Nuggets completely lost themselves in the final minute. Luckily some Spurs missed free throws kept the Nuggets ahead and gave them a chance to finish it off.
Monte Morris ended up being the calming presence the Nuggets needed on their final possession, taking the clock down, drawing the foul, and knocking down both his free throws under pressure.
With 7.2 seconds to go the Nuggets needed one stop. The Spurs nearly drew up the perfect play to set up Forbes for the corner three off the Aldridge screen but Plumlee saved that one by kicking DeRozan’s pass attempt out of bounds.
The kick proved to be the game saving play as the Nuggets defended the 3-point line perfectly to hold on for the victory. Denver maintains the first seed in the Western Conference, but after a game that ended up being closer than expected in the second half might face a tough test tomorrow night against the Suns.